Whirlpool says Plant 2 site goes to city if grant OK'd

By TIM SINIARD
Posted 8/30/19

Whirlpool is on board, and it was a lake that clinched the deal.During an interview with the Cleveland Daily Banner, Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks said appliance manufacturing giant Whirlpool …

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Whirlpool says Plant 2 site goes to city if grant OK'd

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Whirlpool is on board, and it was a lake that clinched the deal.

During an interview with the Cleveland Daily Banner, Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks said appliance manufacturing giant Whirlpool Corporation has agreed to write a letter granting the city control of the site where former Whirlpool Plant 2 once stood, contingent on the city securing a grant to construct a planned $7.8 million, 62,000-square-foot sports complex, as well as a green space and a lake.

The plant, which stood at the site for well over a century, was demolished earlier this year.

The city announced last week it was applying for a $4 million grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee Health Foundation's Blue Cross Healthy Place Projects program for construction of the sports complex, which will feature eight basketball courts and eight volleyball courts.

City leaders expect the complex will attract up to 200,000 visitors each year to Cleveland's downtown.

“They have agreed to send us a letter that they would cooperate and give control of the land to the city of Cleveland,” Brooks said. “That was the language they used.”

The agreement took place during a meeting earlier this month at Whirlpool’s corporate offices in Benton Harbor, Mich., which was attended by Brooks, City Manager Joe Fivas, Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mike Griffin and Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce Vice President for Economic Development Doug Berry.

Brooks said the meeting exceeded the group’s expectations, with discussions of the city’s plans for the former Plant 2 site greatly impressing Whirlpool executives.

The executives asked the Cleveland group what they needed from the company.

"One of the vice presidents did just say point blank, 'What do you need from us today?' And it was just … bang!'"  Brooks recalled. “We said we needed a letter to be able to give to Blue Cross Blue Shield, and anybody else, that we're going for a grant and if we are recipients of their money, you'll help us with the land.”

Prior to the agreement, the Cleveland group set up large posters of artists’ renderings that depicted the sports complex sitting adjacent to a lake, as well as a green space featuring zip lines, as well as other activities for downtown visitors.

“This picture is the one that they seem to really get the most excited about,” Brooks said as he pointed toward the poster of the lake that is displayed in his office in downtown Cleveland. “They saw the lake, and they loved it.”

He said the executives were greatly impressed with the city’s plans.

“They were energized,” Brooks said. “If this grant comes through … that they would send a letter to Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and say they are ready to partner with the city of Cleveland? Unprecedented.”

Brooks said Whirlpool Corporation is “really interested in recycling and revitalization.”

He said the Cleveland team explained the city would allow the green space to revert to its natural state, part of which was the site of a former wetland fed by natural springs.

“And when it reverts back to its natural state, we said we would have a walking trail and trees, and they loved it," Brooks said. “They said this was exactly what they dreamed for their plant to become again, a park-like setting.”

It was the first time that the executive leadership of Cleveland had ever met with Whirlpool executives in Benton Harbor.

“That's the first really big point,” Brooks said of the meeting. “The second point was just how positive they were. And they, quite frankly, were blown away. This is no longer a dream on a poster board.”

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